Mark Bowers fell 40 feet to the ground when a catwalk collapsed under him at the USX Plant in Fairless Hills. Bowers, a mechanic for subcontractor C.J. Langenfelder, was on his way to a shutdown area of the plant when the catwalk grating gave way underneath him.
He fractured his vertebrae and left wrist and ankle. During his five weeks of hospitalization he underwent surgery on his back and wrist. Later he was hospitalized and had surgery three more times on his ankle.
He and his wife sued USX for failure to seal the shutdown facility, failure to post adequate warning signs and failure to alert workers that entering the area was dangerous.
USX argued that Bowers was a trespasser, that Bowers’ employer had been instructed to keep its employees out of the shutdown area and that there was no reason to suspect any worker would enter the closed facility.
But plaintiffs’ counsel presented the testimony of 15 co-workers who said they frequently traveled to shut-down facilities to get replacement parts. The workers said USX was aware of the practice.
Bowers claimed $232,350 in past lost earnings and between $1.9 million and $3.6 million in future loss of earning capacity.
USX alleged that with Bowers’ high IQ, he was employable in a variety of sedentary jobs.
Although Bowers was disabled as a mechanic, his physiatrist and orthopedist recommended he return to other work.
The case settled for $1.4 million plus a reduction of a workers’ compensation lien from $320,000 to $110,000.